ANNAPOLIS – Megan’s Law, requiring sex offenders to register with police, as well as more gun control and drunken driving restrictions will be on the Maryland General Assembly’s justice agenda when it reconvenes next month.
Legislators must tighten up provisions of its Megan’s Law to comply with federal laws or risk losing $900,000.
Sen. Leo E. Green, D-Prince George’s, said he’ll sponsor a bill to do just that by broadening the definition of sexually violent predators and offenses and requiring lifetime registration for all second-time offenders.
Two bills cracking down on gun owners may also appear on the Legislature’s agenda if one lobbying group has its way.
The first would create a gun owner licensing system, said Eric Gally, a Marylanders Against Handguns Abuse lobbyist.
The bill, which comes on the heels of a successful gun control measure requiring safety locks on all guns sold after Dec. 31, 2002, would prevent gun owners from buying guns and selling them to others who wouldn’t have been approved, thus avoiding background checks.
“It creates a little more of a barrier for someone who’s not really a criminal, but is doing a favor for someone who is,” Gally said.
The second bill would clarify language in the law that holds adults responsible if minors gain access to firearms under their supervision. The bill would make it easier to convict negligent adults, Gally said.
Lobbyists will also try again to persuade lawmakers to pass the gun safety education bill vetoed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening last year, Gally said.
The bill sponsored by House Speaker Casper Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, and Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore, would have required public schools to teach students about firearm safety, hunter safety and accident prevention.
Drunken-driving legislation will also get lawmakers’ attention this session.
After successfully lowering the blood-alcohol content level required to be found legally drunk from .10 to .08 last session, legislators will tackle two other drunken-driving bills.
The first would make it illegal for anyone in the car to have an open container and the second would increase penalties for repeat drunken-driving offenders, Taylor said.
It’s uncertain what will happen to a push to ban the death penalty in light of recent rulings by Maryland’s high court. The state Court of Appeals upheld Maryland’s capital punishment law in two separate cases, those of Steven Howard Oken and Lawrence Michael Borchardt, that relied on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in a hate crime case.
Delegate Dana Lee Dembrow, D-Montgomery, said an election year isn’t the time to reintroduce his death penalty ban.
Besides, in the wake of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Dembrow said he didn’t think death penalty opponents would get very far.
“We don’t want to spin our wheels,” said Sen. Nathaniel Exum, D-Prince George’s, who cosponsored a bill placing a two-year moratorium on executions last session.
But the rulings make it more likely that at least one death row inmate will be scheduled for execution in 2002. The bill’s sponsors are still debating whether to submit it this session.
– 30 – CNS 12-17-01